SHE launched her signature label in 1987 and since then, Madhu Jain has worked with natural fibres and experimented extensively with textiles. A craft revivalist and textile conservationist, Jain is credited with crafting unique textiles. In the past, she has blended Andhra ikat with that from Odisha, and has also combined elements from Thailand and Gujarat’s patola to make a double ikat. As her eponymous label completes 29 years, Jain has launched a new collection inspired by the ikats of Uzbekistan. The collection, was launched recently at Ogaan, the multi-designer store in Delhi. The designer spoke about her journey this far, her new collection and plans to commemorate her 30th anniversary. Edited excerpts:
Looking back, how would you describe your personal journey in developing textiles?
Textiles are my passion, which has taken me to the remotest villages in India and Bangladesh to source the most beautiful, organic and unique textile traditions that were getting lost due to the rising demand for machine-made textiles. In Bangladesh, I worked with BRAC, the largest NGO in the world; on Nakshikantha and Dhaka muslin, to save these almost endangered textiles. Similarly, in 2003, I was instrumental in introducing an alternative textile, bamboo fibre, in India. Currently, I am working on Central Asian influences on ikat and how to weave those into Indian sensibilities.
Your latest collection in ikat is inspired by Uzbekistan. How did this come about?
From ancient times, the world has been linked by trading routes and textiles. In the 19th century, the Central Asian regions of Bukhara and Samarkand (now Uzbekistan) were famous for fine silk and cotton ikat. Uzbekistan royals and rich merchants wore ikat coats, as it exemplified power, status and wealth. I wanted to take this ancient ‘cultural exchange’ to a new level by combining Uzbek motifs with that of ours. While Indian ikat uses traditional motifs based on nature and temple themes, Uzbek-based ikat has abstract geometrical and floral themes. My latest collection is a happy marriage of the two traditions.
What are your views on the textile wave sweeping the country currently, as an increasing number of designers are working with Indian textiles?
Personally, it makes me happy that Indian textiles are finally capturing the imagination of designers. But we need to focus on innovation and design development.
Are you working on any textile revival or special project this year?
I am gearing up for special celebrations to commemorate 30 years of the Madhu Jain label. I am focusing on adding vibrancy to the Ikat textile craft, and presenting it in a totally new avatar.